Emma Heaphy, a qualified lawyer, mum and writer shares how much things changed when she became a mother and what she achieved when she let go of her expectations.
“If I focus on what I have done rather than what I haven’t done, I am half way towards being a better mum”
My motto in life has always been to finish what I start. This has applied to all aspects of my life: My work, my workouts, my cooking, my cleaning and social commitments.
Before motherhood, I would get frustrated if I was interrupted doing anything for myself without good reason. This had its benefits in that people who knew me well enough to marry me knew to stay away when I was on a mission and let my efficiency take its course. However, it was also too my own detriment. For example, as a solicitor I found it difficult to field calls when I was in the middle of drafting an affidavit. Woman are meant to be multi-taskers I know. However, getting side tracked by more often than not an unnecessary phone call for something as simple as “I am just checking you received my email”, was enough to make my blood boil and my never ending list of things to do even more never ending.
This perspective has now had to change and this is probably (I’m not ready to say definitely) for the better. These days everything I do is full of interruption. I can’t manage to put my clothes on in the morning, straighten my hair or get through a workout without having to cater to Lottie’s needs at some point throughout the process or sub her in for one of my dumbbells.
Some days it just isn’t possible to finish some things I start and most days it is not possible to finish everything I have started. The old me would have flipped out about this and considered the day a complete and utter failure (‘A’ type personality).
A few days ago, I woke up feeling great. Lottie had only woken up once in the night and more importantly (and often overlooked) so had I. I had the best of intentions for a productive day and wrote out my list of things to do that day which I envisaged completing all before Lottie’s first nap at 10.30am. I won’t bore you with the all the details but let’s just say the list included a mix of household chores and naturally some chores I had already completed just so I could tick them off (don’t pretend you don’t do that too). Somewhat annoyingly, the chores all required more than one step (a mum’s worst nightmare), like soaking Weet-bix off bowls before the dishwasher and baby poo off clothes before the washing machine #Sh**feast. For one reason or another (but all involving Lottie in some way, shape or form) the chores didn’t get completed and my list featured no extra crossed off items than at the commencement of the day.
When I was first learning to ride the mumbike (a new type of e-bike designed to run on love and without fuel or sleep), I would feel frustrated, then guilt for feeling frustrated, then resentment, then guilt again for feeling resentment, all because of some stupid chores. It wasn’t because I didn’t try not to care. Rather, it was because my expectations from my pre-mum years were still well and truly cemented at the forefront of my brain and I felt like a failure if I did finish what I started. This mind frame is not a healthy nor realistic one as a mum.
My current thinking which seems to be serving me well so far is that something is better than nothing:
- If I can only get one set of my at home workout done, something is better than nothing.
- If I washed but couldn’t hang the washing out, something is better than nothing.
- If we didn’t have all of my vegetables for dinner because I forgot about the roasties which burnt while I was getting Lottie ready for bed, some vegetables are better than no vegetables.
Added to this is a much more realistic goal level. For example, each morning, I will set myself lesser tasks. Instead of writing an entire list of everything that I want to achieve in the day, I limit the list to only those things I realistically can achieve. That way I am more likely to succeed and anything else that I complete that isn’t on my list is a bonus.
Being a mum can be hard work. It requires all of you almost all of the time. You can easily spread yourself too thin and be no good to anyone, not least yourself. If I focus on what I have done rather than what I haven’t done, I am half way towards being a better mum and something is better than nothing right?